Another conference game, another loss. This one was a bit different, though: Northwestern’s defense played arguably its worst game of the season, and Northwestern’s offense actually looked decent once Andrew Marty entered the game. Northwestern falls to 2-9 (0-8 B1G) with the HAT up next.
Here’s our weekly stock report:
Gaz officially put his name into Northwestern’s record book as NU’s all-time sack leader with his sack of Tanner Morgan for a safety in the second quarter.
Gaziano was credited with another half sack later in the second quarter and applied pressure on Morgan all day. He finished with 1.5 sacks, another TFL, and a PBU on the day and will enter his final game at NU with 29 QB takedowns.
After Hunter Johnson left the game in the second quarter due to injury, Marty stepped in to replace him. In his first full possession after Johnson’s injury, Marty showed solid command of the offense and finished the drive with a dime to Jace James.
Marty led another touchdown drive in the third quarter. As the preseason fourth-string quarterback, he seemed exceedingly comfortable and showed great poise against a top ten team in the country. He found success both throwing the football and rushing with it. Marty finished the game 8-10 for 95 yards, one passing touchdown and an 192.8 efficiency rating. He also ran the ball 16 times for 52 yards and two touchdowns.
Outside of Hunter Johnson’s four carries for -40 yards, NU’s run game performed well. The offensive line neutralized Minnesota’s stout front seven and opened many holes for Andrew Marty, Evan Hull, Jesse Brown, and Drake Anderson. Outside of Hunter Johnson, Northwestern ran the ball 45 times for 167 yards, and was rarely if ever off schedule.
Honorable Mentions: Riley Lees kickoff returns, Andrew David’s 67 yard punt, response to 21-0 deficit, forced fumbles
Tanner Morgan and Minnesota’s receivers torched Northwestern’s secondary throughout the whole game. Whether it was a slant, jump ball, or any other route, Northwestern’s cornerbacks could not contain Minnesota’s receivers in 1-on-1 coverage. Additionally, the Wildcats’ safety play provided little relief, allowing multiple deep receptions.
It was inarguably one of the worst defensive performances this season, and the struggles were most noticeable in the back four. Rashod Bateman accounted for three touchdowns, while Tyler Johnson caught a 17 yard touchdown to seal the Gophers’ victory. Morgan finished the game 15-23 for 211 yards, four touchdowns, an interception and a 191 efficiency rating.
Before Hunter Johnson left the game for injury, Northwestern ran five passing plays. Johnson was sacked on three of the five plays and threw incompletions on the other two plays. While Northwestern’s pass protection improved with Andrew Marty, the offense ran minimal drop-back passes and still allowed some pressure even on those. The offensive line did not allow another sack with Marty at QB, but remained a liability when the team went through the air.
Once again, Northwestern’s coaching staff was thoroughly out-prepared by the opposing team. While it is much easier for P.J. Fleck and Minnesota’s staff to put together a game-plan against Northwestern than vice versa given each team’s healthy personnel, NU should not have started the game in a 21-0 hole.
Northwestern could not handle Minnesota’s blitz packages and simply were out-coached by the Gophers in the early going. While the coaching staff did a solid job preparing Marty, the same cannot be said about Hunter Johnson.
Honorable Mentions: Injuries, Hunter Johnson, Mick McCall’s scripted play-calling, rushing defense, Fitz’s inconsistent policy regarding two point conversions